Missouri’s amazing stats and mother’s horror inspire the “Driving While Black” opera


Is NAACP issued travel recommendations In 2017, we warned blacks not to drive in Missouri due to discrimination and racist attacks.

Two years later, State Prosecutor General Eric Schmidt issued the following report: Blacks were 91% more likely Arrested by police in Missouri.

Just over the past week, according to a new report, the numbers have improved, Black driver chances are still 71% higher In 2020, you’ll be parked more than a white driver and you’re 25% more likely to be arrested in Missouri.

That reality is explored in the opera “Driving While Black,” mixed with the oppressive anxieties that black parents face when giving their children car keys.

Composed by Susan Kander from Kansas City and Roberta Gumbel, a voice actor at the University of Kansas, the 2018 opera was released as a download on compact discs and Albany Records. UrbanArias, a Washington, DC-based opera company, will also produce a movie version that will be available online until October.

Written for soprano, cello and percussion, “Driving While Black” was first performed by Gumbel on the New Morse Code, an ensemble of cellist Hannah Collins and percussionist Michael Compitello. The video of the original work is also released.

Kander first met Gumbel in 1996 when soprano sang the role of Harriet Tubman in Kander’s opera “She Never Lost a Passenger.” When they lived in New York City, their friendship deepened over the years. Gumbel returned to the Midwest while Kander remained in New York, but they kept in touch and met each other when Kander frequently returned home to visit his family. Includes nephew Jason Kander, a former Secretary of State of the state. Her uncle is the famous Broadway composer John Kander. Her late father Edward Kander is a longtime development director of Lyric Opera. was.)

“Roberta has sung a lot of my songs over the years,” Kander said. “In 2017, when her son was just 15 years old, a black man driving the NAACP in Missouri. We were talking a lot about that because we were issuing travel recommendations to. “

The opera “Driving While Black” was created by the scriptwriter Roberta Gumbel (left), a professor of voice at the University of Kansas, and the Kansas City-born composer Susan Kander.

The opera “Driving While Black” was created by scriptwriter Roberta Gumbel (left), a professor of voice at the University of Kansas, and Kansas City-born composer Susan Kander.

At that time, Gumbel was teaching voice at KU. He also taught Kander’s two other friends, Collins and Compitero.

“I remember telling Roberta,” Hey, don’t you have to do a teacher recital someday? Would you like to write something for you, “Kander said.

Kander and Gumbel brainstormed on some ideas, but when discussing the dangers of driving, Black began to show dramatic potential.

“We were expressing concern about the safety of our son,” Gumbel said. “So Susan said,’Let’s write about it.’ We searched for a script writer, but couldn’t find a script available, but Susan said,’I need to write it.’ The script.

And she did. The result is a powerful and compact 45-minute chamber opera, where the mother ponders the dangers her child faces. Her meditation is sometimes interrupted by breaking news that mentions Trayvon Martin, Philland Castile, and other real-life victims of racial discrimination.

“The arc of the story is the seat of the car I came home from the hospital, raising my son backwards until I handed over the car key,” Gumbel said. “This shows how the world changes as the child grows up and the fear of the mother grows as you witness all these horrifying things. That’s exactly what she does. The perception that it can happen to a child creates her anxiety about his driving among blacks. “

Gumbel says her anxiety is based on her own personal experience, as well as well-reported cases. She says she was once mistaken for the suspect and police she was looking for.

“My nephew was a junior high school student and was thrown into a paddy wagon,” Gumbel said. “When the police drove away and realized they had caught the wrong child, they just dropped him off the water wheel. He didn’t know where he was. This was before the days of mobile phones. So he had to go home. They’re the kind of things that don’t make news, but they’re true. “

With the death of George Floyd and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, “Driving While Black” resonates even more. But it’s more than a “opera in question”. Just as the political background of Puccini’s “Tosca” (Napoleon’s invasion of Italy in 1800) is less important than the theme of oppression, Gambel hopes her opera will one day transcend American politics in 2021. I’m out.

“It will take another 150 years or so for me to know that, but if we can get rid of systematic racism, it will be about mother’s fear, not modern politics. “Well,” she said. “I don’t think you need to be black to understand your mother’s concerns and her determination to prevent her son from being another politician in the newspaper. The desire to be safe in the world is universal. Everyone deserves it. “

To buy a recording tinyurl.com/dt54au3tTo watch a movie of .UrbanArias Urbanarias.orgPlease contact Susan Kander ([email protected]) for a license to view the original work and perform the opera.

Caroline Dam's work will be on display at Wylliams / Henry Contemporary Dance Company's next work, “Art Remains”.

Caroline Dam’s work will be on display at Wylliams / Henry Contemporary Dance Company’s next work, “Art Remains.”

Wylliams / Henry Dance —’Art Remains’

The Williams / Henry Contemporary Dance Company will perform live directly in the Tudor Ballroom at Hotel Kansas City on June 18th and 19th since 2019. “Art Remains” enables this incredibly vibrant company to bring the stored energy to an emotional program that expresses the importance of loss, anger and connections.

One of the works is “Sweet in the Morning,” choreographed by Reni Wirims, who founded the company with Mary Pat Henry in 1991.

The company’s artistic director, Henry, wrote in an email that he “allowed Reni’s work to be performed by only five dancers in 30 years.” I need a good dancer. “

The program will also showcase the work of two up-and-coming choreographers, members of both the companies Tristian Griffin and Caroline Dahm.

“I think this will be a beautiful concert with three works that talk about all the emotional problems we experienced during this pandemic era,” writes Henry.

June 18th and 19th at 7:30 pm. Hotel Kansas City, 1228 Baltimore Avenue, $ 20- $ 30. wylliams-henry.org..

You can contact Patrick Neas at [email protected] and follow his Facebook page, KC Arts Beat. www.facebook.com/kcartsbeat..

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